It has been said that a way to understand our character is to think about what we would do if we knew no one would ever find out. A person of good character would be someone who does the right thing simply because it is the right thing, and for any personal motive.
How we resolve the things that confront us in our lives is directly related on our response in these situations. Since our responses are determined by our character, it really matters what our character is. It has been observed that certain character traits seem to be identified with positive outcomes while others seem to be present when the outcome is negative. While there is not a hard and fast connection between character traits and outcomes, the tendencies are real. It cannot be said good people are always more successful than bad people, although the trends do exist.
There are various lists of what constitutes good character. The common ingredient in these lists seems to be putting the needs of others ahead of our own. It can be said that a person of good character is selfless while someone of poor character could be call selfish or at least self-centered.
Character develops. A tiny baby is totally self-centered, concerned only with getting its own needs met. While that is perfectly normal and acceptable in a baby, a self-centered adult is very difficult to be around. Sharing is a difficult thing for most children to learn. Sharing is crucial to establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships. The same can be said of character traits like honesty and integrity, dependability.
It is open to discussion whether and to what extent we can determine and develop character traits in ourselves and others. Parents and teachers have done many things in the of instilling character in young people. The whole self-improvement culture has been centered around identifying and developing positive character traits and eliminating negative ones from our lives.
How would you describe your character? What are your positive character traits? Do you have negative character traits? How would other people describe your character? What things do you do when you know no one is watching? Do you do the right thing just because it is the right thing?
Many people believe character can be developed and that we can train ourselves to be stronger in demonstrating certain behavior characteristics. Benjamin Franklin had a program in which he identified character traits that he wanted to improve in his own life and a plan for focusing on each of these for a week at a time.
As we move forward, it is important to come to terms with our own character. It might be helpful to think of people we know who are examples either of character we admire or want to avoid. It might be valuable to look at our own character in terms of how others respond to us. You may even have a few trusted people with whom you can discuss your character. Either way, self-understanding is an important starting point.
A goal might be to identify one character trait you would like to develop or build. A second step might be to identify a character trait that seems to be holding you back in some way. See if there is a way you can minimize or even eliminate this. Have fun with becoming more the person you know you are meant to be.
–David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.
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